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Posted on July 27th, 2020
The dangers of exposure to PFAS, a group of artificial toxic chemicals, have been covered up by companies such as 3M and DuPont for their own financial profit. Today, firefighters who developed a disease as a result of exposure to the PFAS in AFFF can recover the compensation they deserve for their injury.
As a group of artificial toxic chemicals, PFAS was first manufactured as part of the Manhattan Project, whose purpose was to develop the nuclear bomb for World War II. Because PFAS contains fluorine gas, which is the most chemically reactive and electronegative of all the elements, it was perfect for the top-secret project. Today, numerous health agencies worldwide raise awareness of the dangers of exposure to PFAS, which can lead to terrible diseases such as pancreatic cancer, leukemia, kidney cancer, lymphoma and prostate cancer. However, during the last century, the companies 3M and DuPont have been trying to cover up the dangers of PFAS, as 3M was manufacturing it for the production of Scotchgard, a stain repellant, whereas DuPont was buying the chemicals from the former to manufacture Teflon, a non-stick substance for cookware. Furthermore, DuPont used PFAS for the manufacturing of aqueous film-forming foam, commonly known as AFFF, which, since 1970, all civilian and military firefighters have been using to extinguish class B fires.
Nowadays, as a result of releasing PFAS in the environment, which is non-biodegradable and thereby persists forever, the chemicals are in the blood of everyone to a certain extent. Minnesota is Ground Zero for contamination with PFAS, which occurred throughout the entire country. PFAS was a tremendous commercial success, as it has the ability to repel oil and stains, as well as to withstand fire and temperatures of 1,700 degrees. Nevertheless, 3M and DuPont have been aware of the dangers of exposure since the beginning, but tried to hide this information from the public for their own financial gain. In 2000, when 3M ceased the production of PFAS, it was making almost half-billion dollars every year by selling the chemicals.
One piece of evidence pertaining to the knowledge of the dangers of PFAS is the fact that, in 1997, 3M gave DuPont a Material Safety Data Sheet which had a label saying "CANCER WARNING: Contains a chemical which can cause cancer". However, DuPont removed the label the same year so as to hide this information from the general public, continuing to sell it to clients as if it was a safe agent. Additionally, in 1998, a committee of 3M scientists suggested the company to notify the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the fact that PFAS was in the blood of everyone by then. Nonetheless, a 3M executive overruled the evidence found by the scientists.
It was not until 1999 that a 3M scientist, Dr. Richard Purdy, began raising awareness of the dangers of exposure to PFAS. During the same year, he resigned from the company and subsequently sent his resignation letter to the Environmental Protection Agency. He stated that 3M ecotoxicologists had refused to perform a risk assessment of PFAS. To make matters worse, the 3M scientists were instructed by the company executives to not write down their findings because of how it would look in a lawsuit. In 1950, 3M was well-aware that exposure to PFAS can cause a wide range of health problems, as shown by the studies their scientists conducted on animals. By 1960, the company also knew that PFAS do not degrade and thereby persist in the environment once they are released. In 1975, two independent scientists, Dr. Warren Guy and Dr. Donald Taves, found PFAS in human blood in blood banks around the country. They called 3M to inform the company executives that their chemicals may be to blame, but 3M "plead ignorance" when confronted with this finding, misled scientists, claiming that Scotchgard did not contain the PFAS found in blood, and also refused to identify the chemicals in their products to scientists.
Thereby, 3M had been concealing from the United States Environmental Agency for over 20 years that PFAS was in human blood. The company had been struggling to delay scientific knowledge for decades, while they were reaping huge financial profit from the sale of products that contained PFAS. In 1978, it was a known fact that exposure to PFAS killed monkeys, whereas in 1981, it was a known fact that the chemicals caused abnormalities in pregnant rats. Moreover, in 1988, a company that purchased AFFF containing PFAS from 3M complained that they were misled to believe that the product was biodegradable by company executives.
At the beginning of the year, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a list of toxic agents they plan to regulate, which includes PFOS and PFOA. The agency is striving to reduce the terrible impact these chemicals have on the human health. While PFAS are partly regulated today, there are numerous companies that still use these chemicals for the manufacturing of AFFF, which has been used by civilian and military firefighters since 1970. However, researchers are trying to find a non-toxic alternative to PFOS and PFOA present in AFFF. As a result of exposure, thousands of firefighters came to suffer from awful diseases over recent years.
Today, only firefighters are directly exposed to PFAS, which are present in the AFFF they use. Regular exposure to this dangerous product can cause multiple serious diseases, such as the following:
However, it is worthy of note that it may take within 10 to 40 years for a disease to develop following regular exposure to PFAS, as these diseases have a long latency period. This is why it was only recently that firefighters came to struggle with awful disease as a consequence of exposure to AFFF, which they frequently use to extinguish class B fires.